ATLANTA — They ride motorcycles, fly American Flags, and accompany fallen heroes to their final resting place at military cemeteries. They are the Patriot Guard Riders.
On this Veterans Day, 11Alive's Bill Liss, an Air Force Veteran, is joined by 11Alive Photojournalist Pete Smith, who rides with the Patriot Guard, to pay tribute to those whose selfless service proves the often heard phrase, “no soldier is ever left behind.”
As the Patriot Guard Riders make their way to military cemeteries, they are often met by drivers and bystanders who pay them the highest respect. They all share a common belief.
“It is an honor and a privilege for us to be able to do this,” said Bill Kalway, a member of the Georgia Patriot Guard.
“Some people think we are a motorcycle group. We are not. And we are not a club. We are just a group of people who are patriots and feel that we should be doing the right thing,” Kalway added.
Kalway, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam, has been riding with the Patriot Guard for 12 years. He’s already completed almost 600 escort missions, with some having a special meaning.
For the Patriot Guard Riders, one of its most solemn missions is to accompany veterans who have passed away and have no loved ones to accompany them to their final resting place.
“For all of us, not just myself, it is a very strong emotional feeling when you are able to stand up for somebody who may not have family there who remembers who he was. But, he or she is a veteran, and we will stand up for our own,” Kalway said.
It is a strong feeling shared by former Navy Submariner James Marshall who also rides with the Guard.
“I am thinking that he has nobody there, and I am overwhelmed and honored to be there for an unaccompanied veteran,” Marshall said.
The Patriot Guard Riders are a national organization, with more than 4,000 volunteer riders signed up in Georgia and more than 400,000 motorcyclists nationwide all with a single mission: "Standing for those who have stood for us."
The Georgia Patriot Guard accompanies military funerals to the three national cemeteries in Marietta, Canton and Andersonville, as well as funerals taking place at Georgia's two military cemeteries.
When you see the Patriot Guard Riders on the highways, be sure to acknowledge and appreciate what they do to honor our fallen heroes.